Speech by Mr Calvin Phua, Deputy Secretary, Singapore Ministry of Law, at the Marrakech International Justice Conference, Morocco
21 Oct 2019 Posted in Speeches
A very good afternoon to everyone. Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Moroccan Ministry of Justice for inviting me to this conference.
Given that the theme of this year’s conference is “Justice and Investment:Challenges and Stakes”, I thought I would share some thoughts on the role of multilateralism in improving justice and encouraging investment.
The continued importance of multilateralism
- Multilateral institutions have collectively contributed to the peace, security and international order that we have enjoyed for decades, and have brought the world growth and prosperity.
- As we live in a world where the global order, strategic balances, and trade flows can shift and evolve, the rise of new cultural and economic influences will provide opportunities for the synergy of ideas, and may lead us to develop new solutions to address the increasingly complex problems that we encounter today.
- New concepts and platforms for regional cooperation can emerge, and present opportunities for groups of countries to work together to deepen economic cooperation, strengthen regional integration, and advance a collective position on issues that matter to us, for example in trade, security or technology.
- While it may be necessary to reform multilateral institutions to bring them up to date, and make sure that they reflect current economic and political realities, we should not abandon them.
- Our shared interest is to uphold the rules-based world order that we have built up, even as we navigate this new terrain together, so that we can sustain growth and development, for all. This benefits countries, big and small.
Strong emphasis on rules-based order
- Undergirding multilateralism is international rule of law, which encourages states to act in the interest of common good, provides stability and predictability for interactions between states, and prevents countries from adopting a “might is right” approach to settling disputes.
- Therefore, even though Singapore is a small country, we have been an active and contributing member of multilateral groups such as ASEAN, the Forum of Small States, the Global Governance Group, as well as the United Nation bodies. Singapore is a member of many “Groups of Friends” at the UN. Singapore also hosts the offices of several UN system bodies in Singapore.
- Singapore has also played an active role in the development of international law. In the 1980s, as a maritime nation, we took a strong interest in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). The Chair of the conference that gave birth to UNCLOS was a Singaporean, and we played a key role in obtaining the consensus required for the convention to be passed. More recently, a Singaporean was also the Chair of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) Working Group responsible for negotiating the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation. This Convention was subsequently named the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”.
The important role of international conventions
- International treaties and conventions set up a framework which define legal responsibilities of States and other actors of international community, and regulate the activities required to conduct businesses across borders.
- The international treaties also create the foundation for renewed relationships, and a positive and stable climate that supports social development and economic growth.
- In the area of dispute resolution, international conventions have a major role to play, as seen by the success of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, which provide the legal frameworks for cross-border recognition and enforcement of arbitrationawards and court judgements respectively.
- The Singapore Convention on Mediation represents what we would call “the missing piece in the international enforcement framework.”
- Mediation is rising in popularity as a means to resolve cross-border commercial disputes. It complements other modes of dispute resolution, as it can be used in conjunction with litigation or arbitration.
- Mediation brings about significant benefits, such as reducing the instances where a dispute leads to termination of commercial relationships, facilitating the administration of international transactions by commercial parties, and producing savings in the administration of justice by States.
- However, there was a long-standing obstacle of ensuring that the other party complies with their mediated settlement agreement, especially for cross-border contracts.
- The Singapore Convention on Mediation addresses the lack of an effective means to enforce cross-border commercial mediated settlement agreements.
- Businesses can now have greater assurance that mediation can be relied on to settle cross-border commercial disputes, because mediated settlement agreements can be enforced more readily by the Courts of contracting parties to the Convention, and may also be invoked by a party as a defence against a claim. This will promote the use of mediation around the world, and facilitate the growth of international commerce.
- On 7 August 2019, 46 countries signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation. Since then, five additional countries have signed the Convention, bringing the total up to 51. This is a strong start.
- The Singapore Convention on Mediation is a powerful statement in support of multilateralism, and demonstrates Singapore’s commitment to the international community that we belong to.
- Singapore may be a small country, with limited manpower and no natural resources, but nevertheless we do our best to contribute to upholding the world order.
- The strong support for the Singapore Convention shows that countries recognise the importance of having international rules-based mechanisms to deal with disputes, and the relevance of mediation as a useful means for international commercial dispute resolution. It demonstrates that countries are capable of achieving consensus, with effort, creativity and leadership.
- We welcome more countries to sign the Singapore Convention. I would be happy to meet up with delegations who are interested to find out more.
- To conclude, I congratulate the Moroccan Ministry of Justice for putting together this conference. It provides a platform for fruitful exchange of experience and expertise. I look forward to the sharing of knowledge, perspectives, and insights on law and justice.
Last updated on 21 Oct 2019